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The so-called €œsearch wars€ have opened a new front€"mobile. Yesterday Yahoo! introduced Local Send to Phone, which enables users to send and store listings (business names, address, phone, cross-streets, etc.) on SMS-enabled mobile phones free of charge€"though carrier text messaging rates apply.

A €œsend to phone€ link appears next to listings on Yahoo! local. Clicking the link delivers a pop-up that enables the user to enter a phone number (yours or another€™s, for viral effect). The service is available for all major U.S. wireless carriers.

Google SMS has been around since October, 2004 and Ask Jeeves confirmed it€™s working on a mobile search capability. Google also makes Web search and Froogle available on several formats. A number of Yellow Pages providers, such as Verizon€™s SuperPages and, among others, offer mobile platforms.

There are roughly 1.5 billion mobile phone subscribers around the globe and approximately 170 million Americans with wireless phones. According to Yahoo!€™s COO Dan Rosensweig, quoted by Matt Hicks in an October, 2004 eWeek article, €œabout 79 percent of Yahoo's U.S. users also own a mobile phone.€ Almost all new phones on the market today support text messaging.

There are several challenges surrounding the mobile search market€"device issues and pricing models specifically. However, it is a market that is guaranteed to develop, albeit over time. Indeed, wireless is the €œnext frontier€ in local. But The Kelsey Group believes that any widespread consumer adoption and revenues are several years away.

Yet the ability to effectively create a directory of local listings on one's own wireless phone (and the prospect of local mobile search more generally) is threatening to the DA industry, which stands the most to lose from widespread consumer adoption of these applications.

But first the devices and user experience must get better and flat pricing models that allow for unlimited monthly use must be implemented.

The April 20 Drilling Down session we have on wireless "How Far Away Is Mobile€"Really? (scroll) is shaping up to be one of the most interesting.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I would say that in the short term they're not. This seems to be exclusively about creating and reinforcing user loyalty.

    Hypothetically, over time, there are a number of potential scenarios. It could be a premium service (for users and/or advertisers) over the longer term. Yahoo might also be able to sell inclusion or placement. What's interesting is that there are competing visions in the market: user pays, advertiser pays, etc. Which one will gain traction or will it be some sort of hybrid?

    It's too early to tell. But all these providers have an interest in driving usage, which suggests nominal or no user fees. And by the same token, the traffic/value isn't yet there for the advertiser so it either has to be bundled or free. If it's bundled there can be a nominal charge. But Yahoo has set the expectation that this is free across the board to businesses.

    Maybe they'll add some additional functionality (ala enhanced local listings) and be able to charge some additional fees that way. But, again, this isn't for the immediate future.

    Thanks for the input.

  2. This feature apparently adds value to the users. I would be interested in your take on how Yahoo! is going to make money of this effort, directly or indirectly?

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